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Sinn Fein cut short negotiations to save power-sharing in Northern Ireland, accusing British government of 'waffling'

Parties have just three weeks to reach an agreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin to return to power-sharing and prevent direct-rule from London

Siobhan Fenton
Tuesday 07 March 2017 21:23 GMT
Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams (Rex/Shutterstock)

Sinn Féin has cut short negotiations to save power-sharing in Northern Ireland, after criticising the British government’s representative to the region.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, is currently chairing urgent talks in a bid to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland, after snap elections resulted in stalemate between nationalist and unionist politicians. However, Sinn Féin politicians have ridiculed his attempts to resolve the situation, accusing him of engaging in “waffle, waffle, and more waffle” throughout the talks.

They have not confirmed if they will return to talks with Mr Brokenshire or the DUP at a later date.

Republican party Sinn Féin walked away from power-sharing in January, meaning more than a decade of devolution at Stormont came to an end. They refused to share power with the Democratic Unionist Party, while their leader Arlene Foster is being investigated over allegations she was responsible for a major mismanagement of public funds.

Snap elections were called as a result and returned the DUP to Stormont with just a one seat majority over Sinn Féin, the narrowest ever margin between nationalist and unionist politicians at the Assembly.

After talks with Secretary Brokenshire designed to broker an agreement between the two parties, Sinn Féin’s leader in the north Michelle O’Neill said: “We needed a fundamental change in approach from the British Government. We made that very clear to James Brokenshire today.

“All he did was waffle, waffle and more waffle in relation to how we are going to go forward and give families what they need, which is access to due process as per the request of the Lord Chief Justice.

She added: ”We called the meeting to an end because we had more waffle. We called the meeting short and asked him to go and reflect on that."

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was also present in Belfast. He told local media he was concerned about lack of progress regarding inquests into murders during the Troubles, citing lack of funding from the British government to facilitate the investigations.

Mr Brokenshire said: ”We are getting on with a further round of discussions with all the parties during the course of today.

“They have been business like, there is a sense of the urgency of what is at hand here, the significance of the issues we are dealing with and getting back into the devolved government at the earliest possible priority.

”That's what's motivating me, that's what I'm getting on with doing.“

Mr Brokenshire has also met with representatives of the DUP.

The party has insisted Ms Foster will not be stepping down as party leader, as she insists she has done nothing wrong and that Sinn Féin are merely trying to take advantage of unproven allegations in order to oust her.

Under power-sharing rules, both nationalists and unionists must share power and govern together, in order for Stormont to stand. If the parties refuse to share power, Northern Ireland would have to be ruled directly from London, for the first time in a decade. There is little local appetite for such a situation, amid general consensus that such a move could be a considerable step back in the peace process.

The parties have a period of three weeks in which to reach an agreement. Talks are expected to continue tomorrow.

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